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Court finds it is a criminal offense to provide drug-free urine which is also urine free: Defendant pissed?

The Superior Court has held, in the case of Commonwealth v. Rodriguez, 2403 EDA 2015 (June 6, 2016), that providing a suspect sample of liquid that was negative for drugs – only to be followed by a test 30 minutes later that was positive for drugs – was sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant used a drug-free liquid to evade or cause deceitful results in a test for the presence of drugs.

FACTS

Rodriguez arrived for a parole supervision appointment and was directed to provide Pennsylvania State Parole Board Agent Zane McGowan with a urine sample. After being directed to provide a sample of urine, Rodriguez gave Agent McGowan a urine sample cup filled with liquid a clear liquid that, to Agent McGowan, looked like water. Additionally, the temperature gauge on the back of the cup showed a temperature in the seventy-degree range, whereas urine samples are typically in a ninety-degree range of temperatures. Agent McGowan tested the sample and it came up negative for narcotics or controlled substances. He did not test the sample to determine whether the liquid contained within was actually urine.

After the first cup tested negative, Agent McGowan asked Rodriguez to provide a second sample which he did within a half-hour of providing the first sample. The second sample tested positive for THC.

Rodriguez was subsequently charged with and, after a non-jury trial, convicted of furnishing drug-free urine, use or attempt.

ISSUE

Was the evidence sufficient to find Rodriguez guilty of furnishing drug-free urine if the Commonwealth failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he gave drug-free urine for the purpose of or with the intent or knowledge that it would be used for evading or causing deceitful results in a test for the presence of drugs?

HOLDING

The Commonwealth produced sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Rodriguez used a drug-free liquid to evade or cause deceitful results in a test for the presence of drugs.

REASONING

Previously, there was no case in either the Pennsylvania Superior or Supreme Court that specifically addressed the sufficiency of evidence needed to support a conviction of furnishing drug-free urine. The Superior Court therefore applied the Statutory Construction Act to conclude that the General Assembly intended the phrase “drug-free urine” to include any liquid that an offender presents, which he claims is his own urine, in an attempt to achieve a negative result on a drug test.

Rodriguez argued that the statute requires the Commonwealth to prove that the liquid provided was urine. However, the Superior Court found that allowing a person to submit a sample of water, diluted urine, or other substance in an attempt to evade or cause deceitful results in a test for the presence of drugs and, for that not to be a violation of the statute would be an absurd result.

As to the case at hand, the Superior Court concluded that when asked to provide a urine sample, Rodriguez presented a sample cup of liquid, which tested negative for controlled substances. When he presented a second sample, his own urine tested positive. Therefore, the Superior Court had no hesitation in concluding that Rodriguez attempted to pass off the first sample as “drug-free urine” within the meaning of the statute.

http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinions/Superior/out/J-S32038-16o%20-%201026859377241654.pdf?cb=1

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